A few weeks ago an MP called Louise Mensch should have charmed the nation when she panelled alongside Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You. I say ‘the nation’, when really I’m not sure I’m fit to speak on behalf of such a group of people. She tried to charm me, at least. That combination of intelligence, cheekbones and long hair is usually a winner with me. If she’d started playing the piano and singing I’d have found her irresistible, or at least ignored her Tory-blue blood and pompously gap yah accent. Instead, she said something so astonishingly un-thought through that all attractiveness fled the room. In fact, I’m pretty sure that she put on an Eric Pickles mask from that point onwards. She made the excruciatingly exorbitant claim that Starbucks is “everything capitalism has to offer”. Really? To put it into a brief context, she was criticising the protestors of the Occupy movement for having expensive tents and buying caffé lattes whilst ‘occupying’ the space outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
Sorry for repeating myself but, really? I’ve heard some astonishingly strong stereotypes and sweeping statements before but that’s not one I’m familiar with. Maybe the Tories are planning on entering a new tax band clause stating that people with green Starbucks cards need bumping up a tax band. And as for gold members? Pfft! You’ve had it!
Her argument is that by paying upwards of £3 for a coffee you’re “propping up a corporate giant”. But surely everyone props up these giants everyday? Don’t single mothers ‘prop up’ Tesco every time they do their weekly shop? Don’t homeless people ‘prop up’ McDonalds when they collect enough change for a coffee? Doesn’t the eco-wary traveller ‘prop-up’ First Group or Virgin every time they commute? After all, all of these companies can probably be classes as corporate giants. In fact, they make Starbucks look like a corporate elf, propped outside the front door at Christmas. (I also understand that I referenced the Louise Mensch School of sweeping stereotypes with those examples, too. Still, I’m trying to break it down for her.)
My only problem with all this is that, well, I’m sort of on her side. I don’t understand the Occupy protests. Other than inconveniencing tourists and Christians, they have little affect by being outside St Paul’s. It would make sense if they were still outside the stock exchange, because their arch nemesis traders would have to inconvenience themselves by having to walk round them and, if we’re lucky, trip over their guy ropes and scuff their shoes. I had the same problem with the NUT teachers’ strike. Surely, the whole point of a strike is to prove that your services are indispensable. I agree with the cause, because teachers are indispensable and if they took their degrees into any private company the cutting of their agreed pension would be a complete breach of contract and a lawsuit would be introduced. But then the government can get away with that sort of thing. Tangentially finding my way back to the topic in hand, one day off hardly proved them to be indispensable. The coal miners’ strike lasted a year and the nation was made aware of it with power rations. However, the teaching staff taking a day off doesn’t really make sense. Seven year groups at my school missed out on a day’s education, and I’l be amazed if anyone in those 1200 students has a life-changing exam failure because of that day off. If they wanted to prove a point, they’d have had to take a year off. Like Occupy, I understand the cause, just not the action they are taking.
Sadly, I can criticise but I’m not sure what I’d do in their shoes either. Striking for a year would be reckless, irresponsible, illegal and have a huge minority support from teachers. But they can’t exactly just make a website. No one with power takes an angry twitter feed seriously. We saw union leaders on TV, too. Five minutes on a breakfast programme when attention is largely elsewhere. It seems that by striking, they make it into the public eye. If that was their goal then they have been more than successful. But surely there’s a better way of doing it? I think Ricky Gervais once said that if you want to get in the newspaper, you need to kill or rape someone. Now, I’m no PR expert but having rogue union leaders raping and murdering the nation isn’t exactly good PR.
To see Louise Mensch MP supporting her claims made on HIGNFY, see her recent interview on The Guardian website.